HOMELESS people living at risk of HIV have been supported through the pandemic, after NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde launched what is thought to be the UK's first mobile assessment unit.

Sexual health nurses in Glasgow have so far helped around 50 people sleeping rough in the city with the mobile van assessments.

Dr Becky Metcalfe, a consultant in Sexual Health & HIV at the Sandyford Clinic, said: “We started the service before COVID hit, but when it did we soon realised that the restrictions presented an opportunity for us.

“Those who were homeless were being housed in hotels and that meant there was a chance we could reach them easier. We borrowed a van and hit the streets and were able to get to people.”

Nurses have been working throughout the coronavirus pandemic to reduce HIV transmissions in the city by identifying those who may be at risk through sexual contact.

The team have also noted that this combined with injecting drug use put many people at a higher risk of contracting HIV.

The van allows the team to conduct HIV PrEP assessments of those that would normally be harder to reach in conventional ways.

PrEP, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a treatment designed to prevent those at high risk of HIV from contracting the virus and is administered by a daily tablet.

Becky said:"There’s been a significant HIV outbreak across the homeless population in Glasgow and having more people engaged in this preventative measure will help to tackle that.”

Lynsey Boyd, an outreach nurse working to help those using the service, said:"It might be just a pill a day but it’s so much more than that.

“By engaging with our teams, we can signpost them to other services that can help them to deal with the many issues impacting on their lives and that’s a big win for everyone.

"The results exceeded all of our expectations and we are proud to have been able to adapt and continue to work as effectively as we did."

Colin, 28, is one of the people who has benefited from the new van.

He said: “Sometimes I have so much going on that I forget to care about myself.

“PrEP was definitely a positive thing for me. I was putting myself at risk of HIV.

"The nurses helped me to get on it and then came to see me every couple of weeks to make sure I was ok.

"Getting tested all the time and being negative made me feel happier.”